Military Embedded Systems

B-21 stealth bomber production on schedule for Air Force


August 17, 2020

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Northrop Grumman image.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. Northrop Grumman's construction of the first B-21 Raider stealth bomber, slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is back on track, a U.S. Air Force official said. Randall Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, acknowledged that some B-21 subcontractors were affected by the pandemic

Walden cited Spirit AeroSystems, which makes large composite aerostructures for the planes, as well as sections of the Boeing 737 Max. The company received $80 million in Defense Production Act funds to help stimulate struggling businesses, and placed employees who normally work on the temporarily-closed 737 Max line into B-21 production efforts.

The first B-21 Raider is under construction at Northrop Grumman's facility in Palmdale, Calif., with an expected rollout for testing in December 2021. The plane is expected to enter service in 2025. According to officials, the Air Force has ordered 100 B-21s, heavy bombers, as part of its Long Range Strike Bomber program.

With its stealth design, it is meant to eventually replace the B-1, B-2, and the now-65 year-old B-52 Stratofortress, officials say. The B-21 will be a long-range, large, heavy-payload stealth intercontinental strategic bomber capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons.

Air Force officials have offered few facts about the B-21, and only shown off artists' renderings of it, to protect information about the aircraft's stealth technology.

They have, however, acknowledged that Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., will be the home of the first B-21 squadron. Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, are expected to house the next squadrons as well.

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